ESPN put together their future power rankings earlier this week, and it is no surprise they ranked the San Francisco 49ers pretty low (No. 31). They followed up those rankings with 30 predictions for the next three years by John Clayton, and that low ranking likely impacted Clayton’s 49ers prediction. He had this to say about the 49ers:
Blaine Gabbert will begin the 2016 season as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback, but Colin Kaepernick will get some starts at some point. The 49ers will be bad, though, and will have a high draft pick in 2017. Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson could be their franchise signal-caller.
There has been plenty of chatter among 49ers fans about what a high pick could mean next year. Deshaun Watson is a slight favorite for the Heisman Trophy, just ahead of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. There’s always that concern about a bit of a Heisman Trophy jinx, although Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are off to strong starts in their respective NFL careers.
Netting the No. 1 pick, or even a top five pick would require another poor season by the 49ers. They could show improvement but still end up with a bad record given their strength of schedule. It will depend a lot on what the 49ers current quarterback situation does, what the offensive line is able to do, and of course, what Jim O’Neil is able to do with this defense. And this also assumes Watson and others end up as the top picks in next year’s draft. Plenty will change between now and next spring. Odds seem pretty good Watson will end up near the top of the draft, but there is a whole season of college football in front of us.